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ARS Home » Plains Area » Fort Collins, Colorado » Center for Agricultural Resources Research » Soil Management and Sugarbeet Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #375130

Research Project: Management Practices for Long Term Productivity of Great Plains Agriculture

Location: Soil Management and Sugarbeet Research

Title: Prácticas de agricultura de conservación promueven la productividad y sostenibilidad del sistema de producción papa-pastos en la microcuenca del río Illangama, Ecuador

Author
item BARRERA, VICTOR - Instituto Nacional De Investigaciones Forestales Y Agropecuarias (INIFAP)
item Delgado, Jorge
item ALWANG, JEFFREY - Virginia Tech
item ESCUDERO, LUIS - Instituto Nacional De Investigaciones Forestales Y Agropecuarias (INIFAP)
item ARÉVALO, JUAN - Instituto Nacional De Investigaciones Forestales Y Agropecuarias (INIFAP)
item CARTAGENA, YAMIL - Instituto Nacional De Investigaciones Forestales Y Agropecuarias (INIFAP)

Submitted to: Agricultural Research Service Station Bulletin
Publication Type: Government Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: 7/8/2020
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Due to the great challenges that a changing climate is creating in the Andean region of Ecuador, it is important to develop new agricultural management practices that can be used to adapt to these imminent threats. Traditional agriculture in this region will need to change to sustain the use of these fragile cropping systems in Ecuador. Achieving viable and sustainable agricultural systems in this region will require maintaining an equilibrium between agricultural production needs and environmental protection. In general, agriculture in this region is characterized by low productivity levels, mainly due to poor soil management practices that contribute to a high erosion potential and to the degradation of the soil resource, which contributes to lower incomes for farmers in the region and even to abandonment of the degraded lands. Confronting this reality, Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Agropecuarias (INIAP), a research organization in Ecuador, established a strategic cooperation with Virginia Tech University and the USDA Agricultural Research Service in 2010 to conduct research and develop agricultural management practices for soil and water conservation to contribute to improved soil health by applying these conservation concepts, which are the basic principles of conservation agriculture: 1) minimum soil disturbance, 2) covering the soil, and 3) crop rotation. These studies were conducted at the subwatershed of the Illangama, which is part of the watershed of the Chimbo river in the province of Bolivar, where soil erosion can be up to 40 to 50 t ha-1 y-1. This high erosion rate contributes to degradation of cropping systems in these regions and negatively impacts lowlands in Ecuador where every year millions of dollars of losses occur due to flooding and sedimentation. We studied the principles of conservation agriculture, examining the effects of surface water deviation ditches, reduced tillage, residue retention, and application of nitrogen. It is important to transfer the technologies that were developed from these studies for these regions using technology transfer documents such as this one, which can be used to reach users of information such as farmers, consultants, university professors, researchers, and other users involved in the agricultural sector and related sectors such as natural resources conservation. It is also important to transfer these technologies to benefit these agricultural sectors in some of the poorest areas of Ecuador such as the Andean region. Conservation agriculture practices contribute to increased yields and net economic returns in this rotation while increasing nutrient cycling, reducing erosion and increasing the sustainability of these systems and capacity to adapt to a changing climate.

Technical Abstract: Climate change is affecting small farm agriculture in the Andean region of Ecuador. This region is dominated by farm areas with fragile cropping systems at high risk of unsustainable degradation. This elevated risk is caused by high levels of soil erosion in steep slopes, inappropriate soil management practices, and frequent fallow periods. We conducted studies in the watershed of the Illangama River about the potential use of conservation agriculture in potato-forage systems. About 70 to 90% of farmers in this region rely on agricultural production as their main source of income. Seventy-five percent of the population is poor, with an income of $160 to $240 US dollars per month (INEC, 2019; Barrera et al., 2012). About 14% of the population is illiterate and about 50% has completed primary education, with an average of 3 years of studies (Barrera et al., 2012; INEC, 2019). Typical farms in the region cover a range of 3 to 5 hectares and are owned by the farmers. Development of viable and sustainable farming systems is key for this Andean region of Ecuador. We conducted studies over a period of five years assessing the potential use of conservation agriculture on a potato, barley, fava bean, and pasture rotation. Among the different practices that were studied were surface water deviation ditches, reduced tillage, residue retention, and application of nitrogen. This publication is an official document of INIAP, an agency of Ecuador’s government. This technology transfer document is about the results of these studies, which found that improved conservation practices are achieved with conservation agriculture for this Andean region of Ecuador. We found that conservation agriculture best management practices increased the return of nutrients such as nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), and sulfur (S) to the soils compared to traditional practices. Additionally, we also found that the erosion potential was significantly reduced with conservation agriculture. The use of conservation agriculture as best management practices has a positive impact on the net income for the farmers in this region, and if adapted with minimal modifications, it could potentially benefit 200,000 farmers in the Andean region of Ecuador. Conservation agriculture practices contribute to increased yields and net economic returns in this rotation while increasing nutrient cycling, reducing erosion, and increasing the sustainability of these systems and capacity to adapt to a changing climate.